The Thing About Prefixes

…in which you get to dip your toes in my stream of consciousness.

For the purposes of this post, a prefix is “an element placed at the beginning of a word to adjust or qualify its meaning,” according to Oxford Languages. For a handy list of English language prefixes, consult the Wikipedia post. They’ve got you covered.

One of the many games I play in my head (I have a rich inner life) is that of stripping words of their prefixes. It’s amazing how many of the stem words have fallen out of fashion even though their prefixed versions thrive.

Take “overwhelm” for example. When’s the last time you heard anyone use the word “whelm”? If you heard it frequently in your youth, you are probably about 700 years old. Congratulations!

Which leads us nicely to the term “congratulations”, and its interesting stem word “gratulation”, which is a manifestation of joy, and something we need a lot more of these days. It’s time to bring gratulation back. Who couldn’t use a little gratulation in their life?

One of the more maddening prefixed words, in my opinion, is “inflammable”. I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many decades I operated under the false assumption that inflammable was the opposite of flammable. And I come by that confusion honestly. The prefix “in” usually signifies “not”. So logic would dictate that inflammable would mean “not flammable”. But no.

This delightful article from Dictionary.com will clear it all up for you. But in a sloppy nutshell, “in”, in this instance, means… in. (You can’t make this stuff up.) So inflammable actually means “in a state of being easily set on fire.” In other words, flammable.

But it gets even more strange. It seems that the word inflammable predates the word flammable by about 200 years, and in truth, flammable only became more popular than its counterpart around the year 1970.  But it did so for good reason. It seems that I’m not the only one who has been confused by the word inflammable, and that confusion could be downright deadly. Because of this, safety experts have long advocated for the shorter version on labels.

In other words, it pays to read the label, especially with regard to children’s pajamas, and that label should not be confusing. Research for this post led me through a maze of websites, including one by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, which assures us that children’s sleepwear is required to be flame resistant.

But what does flame resistant mean, in actuality? Is it different from flame retardant? That led me to this website, which explained that flame resistant clothing is “less likely” to catch fire, and if it does catch fire, it will self-extinguish once it’s removed from the combustion source. This might not seem particularly comforting to the average parent, but the best thing about flame resistant material is that, when it is exposed to heat, it won’t melt and adhere to the skin like some freakish distant cousin of napalm. Yay.

But I will say this. Polyester is supposed to be flame resistant, but I have vivid memories of my teenage sister’s boyfriend attempting to impress us by taking off is polyester shirt (It was the 70’s, so you’ll have to forgive him) and dropping it in the fireplace. We watched it melt, and I remember that it stank to high heaven. So there’s that.

Now I’m wondering if something is “inflamed”, can’t we just call it “flamed”? You’ll have to look that one up yourself. These digressions of mine are making me tired.

Digress is similar to deviate, but oddly, the “di” in digress is not a prefix, despite the fact that “di” is quite often a prefix, whereas the “de” in deviate is. The prefix “de” means off or remove, and so deviate basically means to remove oneself from the “via”, or “way”. But there I go, digressing again.

Aren’t words fascinating? I could study them for hours. I always wanted an unabridged version of the Oxford English Dictionary, but where on earth would I put it? Its current version consists of 20 volumes, with a total of 21,728 pages. Sadly, authorities on the subject say that the next edition will most likely never be printed. It will only be in digital form. Even thought trees the world over will be grateful for the reprieve, for me that will be a sad day.

Because of this digital insult to humanity, children of the future will probably never experience the pure joy of lifting one of the heavy volumes up, smelling the dust, and flipping randomly through the crispy pages to learn something unexpected. What a shame. The memory still gives me butterflies.

We seem to be dipping our toes in my stream of consciousness today. That makes me self-conscious. Which leads me back to… Where were we? Oh, yeah. Prefixes.

I feel the need to mention one last thing before you move on with your day: Even the word “prefix” has a prefix. Shouldn’t that be considered a conflict of interest? I want to lodge a protest. But then “pro” is a prefix, too…

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“You’re Too Wordy.”

When I make my point, I stop.

That little gem came from a coworker as her explanation for why she never reads my e-mails. I found this more than a bit ironic. First of all, as bridgetenders, it’s not like we’re inundated with e-mails. And when she generates one, it tends to be a long, emotional, slang-filled rant that makes her look, frankly, nutty.

I was taught that when sending a professional e-mail, you identify the issue and its history, you note that it now requires action and you propose a solution. That’s what I do. There’s really no point in speaking up about a problem if you don’t show that there are ways to solve it. No one really wants to hear you complain.

I admit that as a writer, I see words as my friends. I think of details as not so much embellishments as the particulars that increase accuracy. I tend to answer the frequently asked questions before they are even asked. It saves time.

As I’ve said in a past post, When I’ve Made My Point, I Stop. Am I wrong? Am I being too wordy? Please weigh in.

I’m not this bad, am I?

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Nincompooperance

Creative wordplay makes our language richer.

I love made up words. The title of this post actually came from a Berkeley Breathed comic strip. Isn’t it fascinating when a word is invented and you know instantly what it means? Creative wordplay makes our language richer.

Another favorite “word” of mine is Douchebaggery. I’m also a huge fan of Youniverse, Textpectation, Unkeyboardinated, and Sproinging.

If you Google “made up words” you’ll come up with dozens of hilarious lists, but all the words therein seem to require definitions. I prefer ones that don’t. Like unforgetaway. And snowpocalypse. And darksome. Ginormous. Sickable, and its near opposites, foodgasm and scrumpdillyicious. Nonversation.

Below are some cute made up words by kids. A good start. These creative writers have big shoes to fill. After all, Shakespeare invented more than 2,000 in his time.

Have a fantabulous day, dear reader!

Made-Up-Words-Chart

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Don’t Give Me Grief

Grief is very personal.

Etymology fascinates me. Where do words and phrases come from? I’m constantly intrigued.

Just the other day, I heard someone say, “Don’t give me grief.”

Grief and its verb, grieving, are states that I’m all too familiar with. It’s a natural part of life to be devastated by the loss of someone you love. It’s also something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

But to say that grief can be given, as if you can box it up and hand it to someone, like the world’s most ill-conceived birthday present, is a bit of a stretch. It’s also kind of insulting to the griever.

No, grief is too personal for that. It’s not something that is presented to you, fully formed, from some outside source. It’s what you feel. It comes from your very heart and soul.

No two people grieve alike. There’s no standard timeline (and anyone who tries to force you into one is clueless and rude). There’s no right way or wrong way to grieve.

Your grief is all yours. You most likely don’t want it. You can’t be blamed for wishing it would go away and leave you alone. But grief is the state in which all of us get to reside, at one time or another. In all probability, you enter that realm without warning, and have to blaze your own trail, in hopes of coming out the other side, much altered, but hopefully stronger for it.

Grief is caused by the loss of someone. It strikes me as wrong to say that it is given to you by someone. After all, it’s not as if you can say, “return to sender.”

Don’t give me grief about this. I know what I’m talking about.

A box o' grief

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My 2000th Blog Post

Well, holy moly! When I started this daily blog back on December 1, 2012, I would have never guessed that I’d still be going strong 2000 posts later. It’s hard to believe I’ve had 2000 things to say, and that I’m rapidly approaching 200,000 views by 110,000 visitors. A conservative estimate suggests I’ve written over 830,000 words.

I couldn’t have done it without you, dear reader. What has kept this blog so vibrant and interesting for me, especially on days when writer’s block was crushing me like a bug, is your feedback and suggestions. Without that input, I’d feel as though I were typing into a void.

I’ve also made quite a few friends on this forum; people from all over the world. Drawbridge Nation feels like a small, friendly town to me, one that I get to walk through every day. I even think that reading my blog is what finally convinced my boyfriend that I was relationship-worthy, so, yay, there’s that, too!

Because of this blog, I’ve written a book, and am working on a second one. I’m very proud of that. It feels like a tiny bit of immortality for someone who chose not to have children.

I’ve even been recognized on the street a few times, which astounds me. I’m used to thinking of myself as relatively invisible, not, as one reader once described me, “a sort of famous person”.

So I just wanted to thank you for indulging in my random musings, and I hope you’ll stick around for my 4000th post! Meanwhile, I think I deserve a cookie.

THANK-YOU-Computer

Plaudits

plaudit

noun. plau·dit \ ˈplȯ-dət \

1 : an act or round of applause

2 : enthusiastic approval —usually used in plural

  • received the plaudits of the critics

Plaudit is one of my favorite words. I wish it were used more often. I love the sound of it, but I especially love the sentiment behind the term. It’s all about giving credit where credit is due. That doesn’t seem to happen enough these days. Those who take the time to make the world a better place, even if they aren’t looking for kudos, deserve applause as far as I’m concerned.

There are so many opportunities to show appreciation to people. Do you take those opportunities? Have you thanked someone today?

Here are some plaudits that I’m sure everyone can agree with:

  • To all veterans and first responders for being heroes.

  • To teachers, for spreading knowledge and influencing all of us to be the best we can be.

  • To volunteers, for being so generous with their time.

  • To owners of rescue animals, for saving lives and providing them with safety and love.

  • To artists, for making life worth living for the rest of us in so many ways.

  • To friends, for being supportive.

  • To farmers, for providing us with sustenance.

  • To writers, for making us think.

  • To listeners, for listening.

And I’d like to send out a very personal and heartfelt plaudit to you, dear reader, for making this blog such a pleasure to write, and for giving me feedback and sharing it with others. I wouldn’t be here without you. So thanks!

Who do you think deserves plaudits?

Plaudits

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My Run-In with the Random Word Generator

Sometimes I can’t think of a thing to blog about. Today was one of those days. I was getting rather desperate, so I consulted the Random Word Generator. Perhaps it would inspire me to break through this blockage.

The first word it gave me was “lip”. No. I’m sorry. Maybe this was a bad idea. What on earth could I do with the word lip? Nothing. That’s what.

I kind of got irritated. Curse you, Random Word Generator! You were supposed to save me! But I’m not one to give up. (Especially when I can’t think of anything else to do.)

I noticed that the generator allows one to choose the number of words that get generated at a time. What would be good? Three, I decided. And this was what I got:

unfortunate memory cancer

Okay, granted, that’s a bit bleak, but really, when you think about it, it ought to be a thing. Because who among us doesn’t have memories that they wish they could forget? The sound of Trump’s voice springs to mind.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind erasing some of my past relationships, from beginning to end. I’d also like to apply chemotherapy to some of the idiotic choices I’ve made in the past. And those bell bottoms that I wore in the 70’s? Blot them out of existence. Please. I’m begging you.

True confession: I’ve been getting more forgetful lately, and it’s scaring me half to death. But on second thought, it might have its advantages. Who knows what unfortunate memory cancers I’ve already been cured of?

Brain_memory

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The First Word

While relaxing on my back porch the other day, with my dog in my lap and the sun in my eyes, I allowed my mind to drift in lazy spirals. Talk about the epitome of privilege. Doing nothing. If this were the 1800’s, I’d be out there chopping wood for the winter. Anyway.

I have always been fascinated with firsts. I once wrote a post entitled, Who Was the First Person to Think Lobster Would be Good to Eat(Whomever it was, bless him or her.)

Following that tangent, it occurred to me that someone had to be the first person to utter a word. Who was it? And what distinguishes a word from a grunt? For my purposes, let’s define a word as a name for something or someone or a concept. (I know that’s overly simplistic, but hey, it works for me as I bask in the sun.)

So, did some adult suddenly realize there was value in being able to name things, or was a baby’s first word the first word? If it was a baby, the word was probably some form of Ma, as it usually is. Ma is kind of the sound you make when enjoying mother’s milk. Ma is the source of food, after all, and food is critical to survival.  So that’s a possibility.

But what if the first word came from an adult? What would it be? What could have been so important that it would cause one to bridge that societal gap? Perhaps some simplistic form of “Saber Toothed Tiger.” Or simply, “Run!”

Whatever the word was, I wonder if its speaker realized that this was a huge deal. By making that sound he or she was destined to change the world. Even this humble blog wouldn’t have been possible without that person.

Given our inherent selfishness, especially when faced with survival, the word could have been “mine,” or “give”. I doubt it would have been anything as complex as “love”, because how could you possibly be sure that love meant the same thing to you as it does to the next person?

Hmmm… maybe it was love, after all.

1_neanderthal

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Ennui with Aplomb

Oprah Winfrey loves bread. (I can’t get that commercial out of my head.) I love words. Two of my favorites appear in the title.

I suspect 2017 will be the year of ennui for me. The current political climate has left me feeling listless and dissatisfied. It’s as though I’ve been trapped under something heavy. Please send pizza.

But rather than lie around gazing at my navel, I intend to do so in style (hence the aplomb)! I vow this year to take more baths, take more naps, and when the weather is nice, I plan to spend a great deal of time in the back yard, gazing up at the pine trees. I hope to read a lot to stay informed and write in protest a lot and eat a lot of delicious things.

Above all, I hope to not work up enough energy for excessive worry. I mean, seriously, what’s the point? Hell is going to break loose without any help from me. As long as you send the pizza, I’m good.

ennui

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Better Words for Women

One of my regular readers challenged me recently after reading my post, All in a Huff over Vocabulary Reserved for Women. She asked me to come up with alternate vocabulary—words that weren’t disparaging or downright insulting. I think that’s an excellent idea. Challenge accepted!

For example: How about passionate instead of easy, asking for it, slutty, tease, tart, or loose?

Caring or quite likely disagreeing with you would be preferable to hysterical, hormonal, emotional, neurotic, moody, touchy, irrational, sensitive, fretting, whiny or illogical.

Disinterested in you is probably much more accurate than frigid or prude. (And deep down you probably know that already.)

Annoyed, frustrated, righteously indignant, or just mean, depending on the circumstances, would be better than huffy, bitchy, irritable, brassy, shrill, catty, headstrong, cat fight, intense, ball buster, shrew, high strung, nag, fishwife, bossy, nasty, abrasive, or pushy.

Perhaps you might consider distracted, busy or overwhelmed instead of flaky, airhead, or ditsy.

Here’s a thought: How about not commenting on age or physical appearance at all, rather than using the terms jail bait, blonde, brunette, plus sized, or little?

How about earnest or sincere instead of breathless or adoring?

Have you ever thought that perhaps someone described as too ambitious, high maintenance, or a diva is actually decisive, confident and knows what she wants?

In addition, gossipy could be communicative, mousey could be noncommunicative or undecided, and bubbly could be enthusiastic.

Gold diggers, in my experience, are either grossly misunderstood or selfish con artists.

And if you think all of the above is not bad for a girl, how about just saying not bad?

Food for thought, I hope. Happy Thanksgiving.

michelle_obama_at_the_dnc_july_2016_cropped
Michelle Obama was the first person to pop into my head when I was thinking of admirable women. Who do you admire?

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